EMPLOYEE STORIES – JULIAN COHEN
When Julian Cohen first started with Active Tree Services back in 1991, it was a casual job that afforded him extra cash for travel and surfing.
Almost 30 years later, he manages the company’s expansion in Queensland in a career that’s featured significant highlights including managing trees at Sydney Olympic Park in the lead-up to the 2000 Olympics.
But that was hardly where he expected it would take him when he joined a tree trimming business in the northern beaches of Sydney at aged 19.
“Active was a growing company at the time and I had a lot of older mates who worked for them. It was a good place to work to pay off overseas trips.
“The team was basically a tight-knit group of old-school lumber jacks and arborists, and it was a workplace where personal protective equipment comprised boots, boardshorts, an Active t-shirt, a cap with earmuffs and the occasional helmet.”
Julian started out dragging branches to the chipper – a job he notes was a “little more dangerous in those days due to limited safety features”, but still it offered him “part time work and it paid for surfing”.
“Throughout the ‘90s I came and went but realised I really enjoyed it and in the mid to late 1990s, I went to TAFE to study arboriculture and tree surgery.”
It was this decision that ultimately led to one of Julian’s career highlights. At the end of his study, he was offered the opportunity to do onsite arboricultural work at Sydney’s developing Olympic site. He spent the next two years representing Active onsite, overseeing tree management and protection in the leadup to the Olympics.
Meanwhile, as Active’s focus shifted from residential to commercial, Julian played an increasing role in sales, managing council contracts and helping to build the council and civil works portfolio.
Commercial work saw him part of some of Sydney’s biggest transport projects, including the M2 motorway upgrade and the more recent light rail initiative, and it allowed him rare access to some of the city’s most spectacular locations.
He notes over the years it was a privilege to work on heritage sites, national parks and the defence bases that dot the harbour.
Commercial contracts also afforded him one of his most memorable moments at Active as the project manager responsible for aerial tree removal along a railway line in the Hawkesbury.
“The job involved a couple of months preparation to have 25 abseilers on a 50m cliff, cutting trees that were lifted out over a closed railway line using a helicopter,” Julian explains.
“We were co-ordinating work crews and the pilot. It was one of the absolute highlights and an incredibly exhilarating, challenging project that went totally to plan.”
Then a couple of years ago, Julian made the move with his family to Byron Bay. He maintained his sales responsibilities in Sydney and was also given the opportunity to become involved in Active’s push to increase their Queensland footprint.
A little over 12 months ago, he shifted into a permanent role as Queensland Operations Manager and has enjoyed watching the success of his efforts as work in the southeast corner steadily grows.
Most recently Active successfully tendered for the Brisbane City Council North Region contract, and Julian notes this as a very “positive outcome”.
“We’ve gone from one crew to three crews and are gradually building up a relationship with the client,” Julian notes. “We are gaining momentum.”
As to why he’s stuck with Active for almost three decades, Julian says it’s about a relationship that offers mutual respect.
“They’ve always been supportive of what I wanted to achieve. That’s kept me in and it’s a two-way street. Active is consistently willing to recognise the efforts and hard work that people put in.”